Category: Articles and Books

0

Alumni Donations and Legacy Admissions

A new economics working paper analyzes confidential data from an unnamed elite university and reaches this perhaps unsurprising conclusion:

We find that the presence of children [in the household] increases an alumnus’s giving, that giving drops off after the admissions decision, and that the decline is far greater when the child is rejected. In short, alumni giving varies systematically with the age and admissions status of their children. This child-cycle of alumni giving is consistent with the hypothesis that some donations are made in the hope of a reciprocal benefit.

Or, as Slate summarizes the results in somewhat more vernacular terms:

At about age 14, as mom and dad see their kid’s algebra and composition grades, they decide whether he or she will apply to the alma mater. If they decide against, then they need not give extra to grease his way in. But if the kid is legacy material, then the parents might feel a need to show some generosity to Anon U.

I am pretty sure that some admissions decisions are influenced to some extent by parental donations. But the authors of the paper take pains to point out that the reality of this influence (which would be hard to pin down anyway) is not necessarily relevant, so long as the alumni parents believe it exists:

An interesting feature of this phenomenon is that the institution makes no promise of reciprocity whatsoever. True, children of Anon U alumni have a higher rate of acceptance than other students, but this does not prove that having a parent who made donations in the past increases a child’s likelihood of admission. Nevertheless, the view that reciprocity exists is widespread. [snip] We know of no statistical evidence on whether alumni donations at any university affect admissions probabilities for their children, and if so, how much. For our purposes, the key insight is that generating the child-cycle of alumni giving requires only the perception of reciprocity.

There is no apparent reason to think this data is not typical of other elite colleges. But what about law schools? How much does the perception that Mommy and Daddy’s donations help with admissions translate to law school admission? More controversial question: how close is that perception to reality? Most controversial question: how much do law school deans encourage the perception, regardless of the reality, and is that problematic?

13

A Critique of the “Nothing to Hide” Argument

skeleton-in-closet.jpgLast year, I wrote a post asking about whether there was a good response to the “nothing to hide” argument:

One of the most common attitudes of those unconcerned about government surveillance or privacy invasions is “I’ve got nothing to hide.” I was talking the issue over one day with a few colleagues in my field, and we all agreed that thus far, those emphasizing the value of privacy had not been able to articulate an answer to the “nothing to hide” argument that would really register with people in the general public.

I received many thoughtful responses.

For a symposium about the philosophy of privacy in San Diego Law Review, I decided to return to the question with a short essay entitled “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy. I’ve posted a draft on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

In this short essay, written for a symposium in the San Diego Law Review, Professor Daniel Solove examines the “nothing to hide” argument. When asked about government surveillance and data mining, many people respond by declaring: “I’ve got nothing to hide.” According to the “nothing to hide” argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The “nothing to hide” argument and its variants are quite prevalent, and thus are worth addressing. In this essay, Solove critiques the “nothing to hide” argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings.

The essay discusses my blog post and some of the comments. In the essay, I apply the theory of privacy I’ve been developing over the years to analyze the issue — in particular, my taxonomy of privacy. Is my response to the “nothing to hide” argument persuasive? I welcome any comments and feedback.

0

Data Mining and the Security-Liberty Debate

I’ve written a short essay (about 20 pages), entitled Data Mining and the Security-Liberty Debate, for an upcoming symposium on surveillance for the U. Chicago Law Review. The symposium website is here. The symposium looks to be a terrific event. The event will be held on June 15-16, 2007 (registration information is available at the symposium website). Besides myself, participants include Julie Cohen, Ronald Lee, Ira Rubenstein, Ken Bamberger, Deirdre Mulligan, Timothy Muris, Lior Strahilevitz, Anita Allen, Thomas Brown , Richard A. Epstein , Orin Kerr, Patricia Bellia, Richard A. Posner, Paul Schwartz, and Chris Slogobin.

terror-in-the-balance.gifMy paper can be downloaded at the symposium website or at this SSRN link. In the essay, I take on some common arguments about data mining and the debate between security and liberty.

In particular, I critique arguments by Richard Posner, William Stuntz, and a provocative new book by Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule called Terror in the Balance: Security, Liberty, and the Courts. Posner and Vermeule argue tthat in times of crisis, courts and legislatures should defer to the executive on issues of national security. I spend a considerable part of my essay critiquing their argument.

The essay’s abstract:

In this essay, written for a symposium on surveillance for the University of Chicago Law Review, I examine some common difficulties in the way that liberty is balanced against security in the context of data mining. Countless discussions about the trade-offs between security and liberty begin by taking a security proposal and then weighing it against what it would cost our civil liberties. Often, the liberty interests are cast as individual rights and balanced against the security interests, which are cast in terms of the safety of society as a whole. Courts and commentators defer to the government’s assertions about the effectiveness of the security interest. In the context of data mining, the liberty interest is limited by narrow understandings of privacy that neglect to account for many privacy problems. As a result, the balancing concludes with a victory in favor of the security interest. But as I argue, important dimensions of data mining’s security benefits require more scrutiny, and the privacy concerns are significantly greater than currently acknowledged. These problems have undermined the balancing process and skewed the results toward the security side of the scale.

0

Anuj Desai on the Post Office and the First Amendment

Envelope 1a.jpgProfessor Anuj Desai (U. Wisconsin Law School) has posted his forthcoming article, The Transformation of Statutes into Constitutional Law: How Early Post Office Policy Shaped Modern First Amendment Doctrine, on SSRN. Anuj’s paper is a fascinating history of the early Post Office and how statutory protection of letters influenced constitutional law. From the abstract:

We typically think of constitutional law as the product of text, structure, constitutional history, ethical and moral philosophy, or common law doctrine. At times, though, constitutional law comes directly from societal institutions; those institutions in turn are often rooted in legislative, not judicial, choices. In this article, I tell an intriguing story of constitutional lawmaking in which policy choices about an institution developed into constitutional law. I look at two important areas of First Amendment doctrine: First Amendment constraints on government spending, i.e., “unconstitutional conditions”; and what is known in First Amendment jurisprudence as “the right to receive.” I argue that the genesis of both doctrines can be found in legislative choices made during the formation of one of the nation’s first “administrative agencies,” a communications network that was viewed as the internet of its day: the United States Post Office. When the twentieth century Supreme Court held that the First Amendment can constrain government spending and then later, in a separate line of cases, established “the right to receive,” the Court initially relied on specific attributes of the post office. Those attributes in turn had been established by choices made by policymakers during the late eighteenth century. In short, the Court incorporated aspects of the early postal statutes into First Amendment doctrine. Legislative choices in effect became constitutional law.

I really enjoyed reading this article — it’s a very interesting piece, especially for anybody interested in legal history and First Amendment law.

7

The Law Reviews vs. the Courts

I’ve just posted to SSRN the near-final version of a short essay I wrote for “CONNtemplations,” the soon-to-debut online companion to the Connecticut Law Review, titled “The Law Reviews vs. the Courts: Two Views from the Ivory Tower.” The essay advances the (perhaps somewhat counterintuitive) claim that part of the reason why federal judges have found law reviews increasingly unhelpful is because their own discretion, both procedurally and substantively, has been substantially cabined in recent years…

I explain in somewhat more detail in the essay, which I (shamelessly) encourage you to check out — it’s a quick read, too. But I wanted to blog about it here to see if folks think there’s any possible connection. As Congress and the Supreme Court have narrowed the scope of review in all kinds of cases, as courts have relied that much more frequently on harmless error and the like, etc., is there something to be said for _that_ trend having an impact on the utility vel non of legal scholarship? Or, are we just, as Second Circuit Chief Judge Jacobs recently suggested, hopelessly out of touch?

Argument & Authority

One part of the intro to Kennedy & Fisher’s Canon of American Legal Thought really hit me today:

Law students struggle to understand the relationship between “the rules” and the vague arguments that lawyers call “policy.” Should “policy” begin only in the exception—when legal deduction runs out—or should it be a routine part of legal analysis? If the latter, how should lawyers reason about policy? What should go into reasoning about “policy”—how much ethics, how much empiricism, how much economics? Which of the arguments laypeople use count as professionally acceptable arguments of “policy” and which do not? Which mark one as naïve, an outsider to the professional consensus? What is it about policy argument that makes it seem more professional, more analytical, more persuasive, than talking about “mere politics”?

I think I might begin my administrative law class next term with those questions at the forefront. Administrative Law is occasionally derided as a Seinfeld class–a class about nothing–because the precedents seem so malleable and ad hoc. All seems to turn on an increasingly complicated jurisprudence of deference. But the agencies are often getting deference because they are presumed to have a better grasp on “empiricism and economics” than nonspecialist judges.

The problems raised by K&F go beyond law into flelds like economics itself. Consider EconJournalWatch’s recent issue examining the role of math in top-level publications. Sutter & Pejsky ask “Where Would Adam Smith Publish Today?,” and note a “near absence of math-free research in top journals.” A bit from their conclusion:

The emphasis on mathematical modeling and regression analysis imposes a toll on the profession. Adam Smith spent his early years studying literature, history, ethics, political and moral philosophy, and then teaching literature and rhetoric to college students. Today to succeed in the profession he would need to study model building and regression analysis well enough to publish in “good” journals, and he (and the rest of us) would have lost the value added from the studies displaced. The same would apply for many Nobel prize winners who published their work in an economics profession less tied down to model building and regression analysis.

Sutter & Pejsky, along with many other interesting authors in EJW, are arguing for a more pluralistic approach to economic authority. I hope to show my students in Admin the multiple sources of authority for agency decisions…and how that complexity, while occasionally frustrating and obfuscatory, can make the resulting decisions stronger, like a Peirce’s cable.

17

Law Clerks and Book Proposals

There’s a fairly disturbing (at least to me) book proposal making its way around the e-mail universe, disturbing not because of the subject (the current debate over habeas and the war on terrorism), but because of the occupation of the authors/editors — two current D.C. Circuit law clerks. Indeed, the proposal itself harps on this fact, suggesting that the two clerks “are uniquely suited to moderate this debate,” having “spent a year in the legal trenches, as it were; each serving as law clerks on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit during a year that saw several landmark detention decisions likely to end up before the Supreme Court.”

My initial reaction is that this rubs me totally the wrong way. Wholly separate from the prospect of law clerks speaking to reporters about their jobs after their clerkships are over is clerks using their position as a ground for a book deal. If I remember right, the relevant provision of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees is Canon 3D, which provides:

A judicial employee should avoid making public comment on the merits of a pending or impending action and should require similar restraint by personnel subject to the judicial employee’s direction and control. . . . A judicial employee should never disclose any confidential information received in the course of official duties except as required in the performance of such duties, nor should a judicial employee employ such information for personal gain. A former judicial employee should observe the same restrictions on disclosure of confidential information that apply to a current judicial employee, except as modified by the appointing authority.

So I guess there are three questions here: First, is using your current position as a law clerk to promote a book deal in effect (if not actually) employing “confidential information received in the course of official duties . . . for personal gain”? Second, even if not, aren’t we opening a can of worms if clerks start using their position to hawk book deals? Third, although we’ll probably have no sense of the answer, does their judge know, and if not, shouldn’t s/he?

UPDATE: I should be clear, as some have noted in the comments, that the proposal is for a volume of essays from multiple contributors, and that the clerks do not appear to be planning to write anything themselves. There also does not appear to be an actual book deal; the e-mail referenced in the post is effectively gauging interest for possible contributors. I’m not sure that changes the issue, but wanted to clarify the original content.

0

Self-Handicapping and Managers’ Duty of Care

I have recently posted my symposium essay Self-Handicapping and Managers’ Duty of Care on SSRN and Selected Works. You can read the abstract when you click through, so to convince you to download the essay, I’ll give you a taste of the introduction:

Authors commonly introduce their works in symposium issues with a few disclaiming words. They identify their scholarship as a “symposium essay,” not an “Article”; a “sketch” of an answer, not a fully-fleshed out argument. Casual readers might conclude that law professors are unusually humble and resist trumpeting the novelty and sophistication of their scholarship.

Social psychologists might instead believe that symposium authors seek to avoid reputational sanctions for publicizing arguments they have not fully dressed. Scholars try to signal an excuse for underdeveloped pieces: “I haven’t worked as hard on this paper as I would have if it were a ‘real’ article.” The goal of this excuse-making is simple: disappointed readers will attribute blame away from the author’s perceived acuity and professional reputation.

This is a symposium essay about the psychology of creating such pre-excuses for failure. Rather than focus on academics, I will examine the failings of overconfident corporate managers . . .

The piece grew out of a post I wrote here over a year ago, and will appear in the Wake Forest Law Review’s Business Law Symposium Issue.

0

Can the First Amendment Serve as a Source of Criminal Procedure?

first-am-as-crim-pro.jpgTypically, when we think of the constitutional criminal procedure that regulates government information gathering, we think of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. But many government investigations involve collecting information about speech, association, religion, and the consumption of ideas. The NSA surveillance of telephone calls, for example, involves speech. National Security Letters can be used to obtain information about association and the consumption of ideas. And so on.

Does the First Amendment apply? Should it? If the First Amendment serves as a source of criminal procedure, what procedures does it require? For example, could the First Amendment require a warrant? An exclusionary rule?

For the answers, please check out my new article, The First Amendment as Criminal Procedure, 82 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 112 (2007).

I’ve posted the final published version of the article on SSRN.

1

Orin Kerr on the Fourth Amendment

Anybody familiar with Fourth Amendment law knows that it is utterly incoherent. In his new paper, Four Models of Fourth Amendment Protection, my colleague, Orin Kerr (GW Law School) argues that this incoherence is actually a good thing. He attempts to sort out the muddle that currently exists in Fourth Amendment law into four models. From the abstract:

The Fourth Amendment protects reasonable expectations of privacy, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to provide a consistent explanation for what makes an expectation of privacy reasonable. The Court’s refusal has disappointed scholars and frustrated students for four decades. This article explains why the Supreme Court cannot provide an answer. It shows that there are four different tests for what makes an expectation of privacy reasonable, not one, and it argues that the Supreme Court has declined to give a single answer because the reasonable expectation of privacy framework is a bottom-up rather than top-down regulatory system. The exclusionary rule requires hundreds and even thousands of narrow rules explaining when an expectation of privacy is reasonable, and the Supreme Court hears too few cases to generate them. The Supreme Court must delegate the process of rule-creation to decentralized lower courts, and the lower courts must announce rules case-by-case. No one top-down approach can regulate this decentralized, bottom-up system, which means that the Supreme Court cannot provide a single answer to what makes an expectation of privacy reasonable. On the other hand, the existing four models reflect the needs of the bottom-up system far better than any single test. The four models provide the tools lower courts need to create localized Fourth Amendment rules that accurately identify reasonable police practices.

For anybody interested in Fourth Amendment law, Orin’s article is a must read.